Time is money and insider knowledge is priceless. When you want to have the best possible time exploring a new city, you can either grab the gigantic outdated tourist map, and end up on a bus with all the other tourists (with them in the background of every photo), or you can grab a guide who gets everything done in a way you could never have done on your own. Here’s how to find one and make the most of your time…

a monkey climbing up a hill

Step One: Options For Selecting A Guide…

The best guides book up fast, so it’s always good to start inquiring about availability as soon as you have firm dates. If your top choice isn’t available, ask who they recommend…

TripAdvisor- TripAdvisor is an invaluable resource for finding guides. It essentially an independent marketplace where up and coming guides can fight their way up the rankings, and established guides can be easily found (at the #1 ranking). It’s great to view reviews on each guide, and be able to connect with them without a middle man. To look for guides, enter a city, then “things to do”, then “tours.

Gyde & Seek- This is a really cool new app which acts as “Uber” for only the very best guides. For any given city you can look through the available guides and their individual specialities, request a tour and voila, you’re on your way. The app aims to offer the general tourist tours, as well as curated food, music, art, fashion and tours of other similar areas of interest. Cities are currently limited, but the app is expanding daily.

Viator- Viator is a one stop shop for most of the public or private tours you might be looking for in a given city. You won’t know much about the person who’s actually taking you out, but you’ll get a comprehensive report on what your experience will entail on your day, half day or excursion. Since Viator takes a cut, prices may be slightly higher, but the research and work is done for you.

Tours By Locals- Tours by locals connects prospectives tourers with local, independent guides. Since these guides will be largely independent, tours can be easily customized, much like a tour with a TripAdvisor or Gyde&Seek guide to fit your individual interests. It’s a fantastic way to see a destination.

a house in a vineyard

Step Two: Figure Out What You Want To See…

Narrow It Down- Any great city offers boundless opportunity for exploration. Google has become an increasingly powerful tool for browsing through the things you might want to take in on your tour, with it’s “Top Sights”. Simply enter a city name and top sights, and you’ll be presented with pictures and reviews of each attraction. TripAdvisor has a similar feature. You can also always look in guide books of top travel companies, with suggested itineraries.

Customize- The beauty of working with a guide is that you can do exactly what you want, and let them suggest things based on your preferences. For example, in Bangkok, the standard thing for a guide to do is take you in and out of countless temples. If you’d prefer to see just a couple, and then maybe move onto a tour of the cities best cocktail bars, local food scenes or something else mind blowing, it’s totally ok to make suggestions.

a city skyline with boats in the water

Step Three: Enjoy, Ask Questions, Take Snaps…

Perhaps the best part of taking a tour with a local guide is being able to ask anything you want. A great guide will have in depth history, political, economic and social knowledge, giving you a broader or more focused picture of the destination you’re exploring. Of course if you’re shelling out for an incredible tour, don’t leave your camera behind, you’ll want to take those memories home. If you have a limited time, want to skip some lines or avoid some tourist traps, a guide is definitely the way to go.

As regular world travelers, we have a few guides we love in most cities. If you are in search of one, leave the city you’re thinking about in the comments, and we’ll throw out a suggestion…

What’s The Best Guided Tour You’ve Been On?!

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. My husband and I are taking a vacation soon. I want to see some sights while we are on our trip. I am going to search the area we will be visiting for the top sights. I want to make sure I get a lot of great pictures.

  2. I cannot recommend Sana Jinah enough if you ever want to tour India. Being one of the few established female tour leaders in a world where women are seen as second class citizens, they’re pioneering the way women are viewed in India.

    She was my tour leader on two tours and she took us to some of the best places and some of the best sites that weren’t so “touristy”. I’m sure everyone out there has their one favorite tour leader, & she’s it for me for India!

    Being a single woman myself, I’ve never felt more safe in a place that is generally “unsafe”

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